red door with pumpkin

red door with pumpkin

This weathered door has seen a lot of Octobers. This door on Elliot Row, a few houses in from the sea in one of the oldest parts of the city, has seen thick fog and hurricane rains, hot sun and freezing gales, and everything in between. You can see the marks where the door has been pushed, shoved and bumped, where the paint is worn down to the wood by frequent use. It looks like this door was painted white before it was red, and before that — before the new owners refinished it and repainted and re-sided and renovated the house from top to bottom — I wonder what it looked like then?

When the Nor’easter rolls up the Eastern seaboard and sends the Bay of Fundy waves pounding against the shore, it will stand firm. When snowbanks ploughed off the street climb all the way to the top of the railing, and ice encases the steps, it will still open and close, firm against the weather. For now, it’s strong enough. For now, there are flowers, and a pumpkin to mark the season of harvest and Hallowe’en. Welcome.

Taken on October 2, 2010

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playground

playground

I like toys. I have lots of them: a bike and camping gear and a harp and lots of camera stuff and a computer and an ipod touch and an elliptical exerciser and a bunch of kitchen gadgets and garden tools and, oh yes, a car. Yet I spend most of my spare time on my computer and ipod.

But I’m not doing very well in the fitness department. If I keep sitting all day, I’ll turn into an ottoman (the furniture kind) — all seat and no legs. With the  exception of apps for activities such as birding, starwatching and geocaching, computers and being outdoors don’t go together, and unless you’re just listening to music, you’re not actually doing anything.

And it’s not just me. There has been a lot of hand-wringing about child obesity in the so-called developed world. I saw a Saint John photo by Ian McEachern yesterday, showing a group of 9 or 10 kids playing in on the street next to a group of homes, a couple of adults leaning against the stoop, watching. That was 1968; this is 2010. The boy in this photo is alone. He has an electronic toy in his hand. He hasn’t walked the few blocks to the nearest playground, he isn’t kicking a soccer ball with the neighbourhood kids or heading to the library to check out a new book. He’s standing in a neighbourhood parking lot, with a whole universe of playgrounds to explore, at least until the battery runs down.

Taken on October 2, 2010

cat eyes

I’ve noticed that fancy decor magazines like to pretend that people’s homes are museums or galleries. For example, instead of discussing curtains or drapes, they talk about window dressing. Window dressing?

“It has come to my attention that many of you are in a quandary about how to dress your windows. Even friends of mine who are top notch designers are often terrified of window dressing…” – from a Home and Garden article (“Window Dressing 101”).

Terrified by window dressing, eh? Well now, I’ve seen two windows with wolf-blanket curtains; maybe that’s what they’re talking about. A wolf in the window probably sends the wrong message, it scares away the meter reader and Girl Guides selling cookies. But replace the ferocious wolf with a sweet-faced domestic cat, and suddenly your window dressing is not so terrifying. How purrfect, the neighbours will say, that little house down the street has cat eyes.

Taken on October 2, 2010

steeple city

In the centre core of Saint John, a variety of churches are perched along the top of a low ridge that runs along the South End peninsula. From every viewpoint, you can see steeples rise above the cluster of low and high-rise buildings.

Like the rest of the western world, the city has seen changes in its religious and ethnic demographics in recent years. Some churches have closed, and others have had to merge congregations. Those that remain are struggling to pay their bills while trying to speak to modern spiritual and community needs in a time when many consider such institutions stagnant or of questionable value. The gap is widening between those who are looking for a traditional religious practice — in most cases, that merely means “what I grew up with” — and those who feel excluded by obscure rituals, exclusively male language and a holier-than-thou attitude.

Are the steeples merely a symbol of our past or do they have have a role to play in the future? God knows.

Taken on October 2, 2010

end of the line

If you follow these railway lines the other direction, they head north and west and across a continent. The great Canadian railway project was a great pioneering adventure, a huge achievement in its time, traversing disparate geographies and climates, crossing swamps and rivers and mountains. When the last spike was hammered in at 9:22 am on November 7, 1885, in British Columbia, the country was symbolically unified, and the pioneer age came to an end.

People still go west, seeking adventure, opportunity, jobs. You don’t hear of people going east. East is the edge, the ocean, where the “gold” of boundless sea resources has already been spent. To many people across Canada, the Maritimes is a quaint place to visit but not to live. They may think this is the end of the line, but they are wrong; this is the beginning.

Taken on October 2, 2010

fall flame

After you’ve lived in one place for a while, it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all. The same architecture, the same streets, the same sprawling malls, the same old, same old. And then one day you’re walking around a corner, looking for something else, only half paying attention, and there it is: something different. Hello, says the red vine, waving brightly from its yellow wall. Hellooooo, do you see me?

On another note, I’ve decided to post entries only on weekdays. As the days get darker, weekends are getting busier and sometimes I’d rather sleep in… So now you don’t have to waste, er, invest your weekends reading my blog, but I hope you’ll keep dropping by on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And thanks as always for your excellent comments!

Taken on October 2, 2010

keep the red on your right

A navigation beacon, a single oil lamp, was first erected here at the point of the South End peninsula in 1842. Then in 1847, it was replaced with this triple gas lampstand, known as the Three Sisters. It was refurbished in 1997.

Apparently the red colour facing the sea was visible for three miles from shore — a helpful aid in fog or dark. When coming into harbour from the Bay of Fundy, sailors would chart their course from the Three Sisters. The colour red shows the starboard limit of a channel, so they would know to keep red lamps on their right. If they could see all three red lamps, sailors would know they were heading straight into the harbour, however if only one or two could be seen, sailors knew they needed to change course. The street-side is white, so it guess it doubled as a regular streetlight.

In this photo, you can barely see a cruise ship docked in the foggy harbour. I’m glad these huge boats don’t have to rely on the Three Sisters to guide them into port!

Taken on July 11, 2009